96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

   Shortly after our arrival a parade of about thirty grinning, singing, American-flag waving, barefoot Filipinos ambled toward our camp from the nearby barrio.

   The leader, who turned out to be the mayor, was riding a horse and leading another - a beautiful, white mare.  He stood in his stirrups, made a rousing speech in his native tongue, and we all cheered and clapped.

   The mayor, smiling broadly. then made me to understand that I was the first American GI they had seen since the landing, and that I was most welcome in their humble community. Still smiling, he also invited me to join him in a toast to the continued friendship of our two countries. He filled my canteen cup with "tuba", a violent native beer or wine or something made with qui­nine, roots, berries. and tannin, It had a bitter taste, but I didn't want to offend them, so I drank it.  All of it.

   It was then he presented me with the white mare. For one who has never gotten off a horse on purpose in his life, this was not as great a thrill as it might have been.  I had to have an­other cupful, to show my gratitude, while trying to think of what the hell I was going to do with a horse. But my replacement would be here in three days, wouldn't he? I'll sell it to him!

   After some more smiling, handshaking, pidgin, and tuba, I tried to climb onto the horse, and with the willing assistance of many hands, got on top[of the beast and sat there.  Bareback. No stirrups, no handles, nothing.

   From this dizzying height, I felt obliged to respond to the mayor's eloquence by making a speech in my native longue. I said. in essence, "Thank you very much for this big white horse. As the appointed emissary or General MacArthur and the Great White Father in Washington, I also thank you for your hospitality, I now direct you to go forth into the countryside and bring me all the Japanese flags, sabers, rifles and pistols you can lay your hands on. To enhance the relationship of our two great countries and win the war real fast."

   The happy throng cheered enthusiastically, and ran off in all directions to do my bidding, My new friends; I had charmed them!

   The two amused guerrillas helped me dismount in a non-military manner.

   My new friends never did return with the booty. Most likely because Manuelo bad incor­rectly translated my speech. or perhaps they just didn?t understand or appreciate my authority.

   After dining on K-rations that evening, my two young (1 4 and 15 years old) guerrillas made the acquaintance of some of the local folks in our neighborhood. They seemed especially in­terested in the two lovely young ladies who lived with their family next door to our headquarters hut, and took them for a stroll down the road until well after dark.

   After setting up an informal schedule to maintain constant surveillance of our bridge. we bedded down for the night. I lay there listening to the sounds of strange frogs and insects, and thought about our situation: Here we were, about 18 miles beyond the American-held beach-head, without any communication other than the road, and we had no idea where the enemy was. Three guys with only personal weapons for comfort, guarding two stupid logs that - in event of flood or enemy activity - could. be repaired or replaced in less than 20 minutes using the pioneer tools strapped to the side of any Jeep. Some duty. Glad it's only for three days.

   Sleepily I became aware of distant thunder in the west, rolling our way. As it approached and the night-sounds grew still, I heard \be intermittent sound of very large raindrops plopping on the ground wnd the large leaves of tropical plants. The sounds of rain and thunder slowly ex­panded to a roar as the monsoons descended on Leyte. It poured all that first night and the next day and night and then came the wind.

   We managed to get a fire started next morning, and had breakfast; our shelter withstood the rain and wind with only a few leaks. We could see the bridge from a window; actually, we couldn't, but we knew it must be there under a foot or so of flowing, muddy water. The road was visible: except in the low spots, however, it had turned into a quagmire the consistency of warm peanut butter, knee-deep on a tall Filipino, and suitable only for a caribou wallow.

   No supply convoys will be able to travel this road for days. I told myself: What an under­statement ?

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